It's hard to be an activist. First there has to be a cause to ignite your passion. Secondly, you have to take risks, push your beliefs and test the boundaries of your comfort zone.
University of Calgary students can't seem to muster the energy for any of this. Take for instance the recent 11 per cent voter turnout at the annual Students' Union election. The SU is supposed to represent students to the government and media, yet they can't even muster enough interest in the student body to participate in their election.
Is it the lack of stimulating education that forces students into a can't-speak-out-in-class mentality? Perhaps the fact the U of C has quality researchers who are not quality educators and communicators is to blame. Are students being challenged?
Maybe it's a symptom of the larger Canadian identity. Traditionally shunning public affairs, Canadians have played a neutral role in international rings and the general tendency has been to shy away from confrontation. Many quips fly about Americans' arrogance, but at least their hotheaded comments are voiced loudly and often.
Calgary students are apparently more than content with this scenario. Three Lines Free are received daily demanding that idiots with a lot of questions should pipe down and stop wasting class time. The vast majority want to get in the room, be spoon-fed testable concepts and leave. Students seem to head for the hills when the five o'clock whistle blows.
Most students still live at home in the comfort of Calgary's ever expanding suburbs.
Why should the election of a student government that might actually succeed in extracting a tuition freeze from the government be a concern for them? After all, so long as Mom and Dad foot the bill student politics are a moot issue for most students. Most of those at home can stay safe and warm in a parental-operated security blanket. Would they show up at protests if they had to make fee deadlines on their own?
So while approximately 75 per cent of the campus continues to suckle Mommy, students who leave home are forced to undergo a maturation process. Bills aren't paid and food isn't bought unless you have a full-time job, a high-class part-time job, or take the initiative to get loans.
Really, an 11 per cent voter turnout most accurately represents those who need to care about student politics at the U of C. It represents those who can't dress to the nines and drive new cars. In fact, they're a small minority who are likely desperate for a strong student government who will not only charter a bus to Edmonton, but pay for the rotten tomatoes to throw at Ralph Klein and his "Ministry of Learning."
The variety of educational opportunities available to students both in and out of the classroom are lost on the rich nine-to-fivers and are inaccessible to the working poor. Which students at the U of C care whether the health and dental plan covers glasses or part-time students? Take a guess. It's not the kids who opted out in favour of their parents' golden plan.
Theoretically, if our hypothesis on voter turnout is correct and the students voting are those who truly care and truly need, then maybe can have confidence in our elected Executive to do what's right for all students. But our theory, like many, has not been proven--and 11 per cent still sounds pathetic.